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  • A recent British inquiry into the suspicious death of former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko,

  • concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had likely authorized his killing. While

  • it is unclear whether these claims are true, the silencing of dissent is not out of character

  • for the former Soviet security agency, the KGB. So, what exactly was the KGB, and why

  • was it so feared in its time?

  • Well, the KGB or theKomitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnostiwas the Soviet Union’s security

  • and foreign intelligence agency. It operated from 1954 to 1991. When the Soviet Union collapsed

  • it was replaced by the FSK and then the FSB, in the new Russian Federation. Both have served

  • similar security functions to the KGB.

  • During its existence, unlike other country’s security agencies, the KGB was effectively

  • an independent government body, with little oversight by Russian leaders. The organization

  • performed a combination of duties, including intelligence gathering, border security, and

  • propaganda enforcement. However, most controversially it operated as Russia’s secret police and

  • domestic surveillance unit. More than half a million people were employed by the KGB,

  • with thousands of international spies. At the time it was the single largest institution

  • of it’s kind.

  • Around the world, the KGB gathered information by usinglegal resident spies”, which

  • were Soviet citizens given permission to be in other countries by way of working in embassies

  • or similar international grounds. They would be able to claim diplomatic immunity if caught.

  • Russia also had illegal spies, with no immunity, and although it was riskier, they were able

  • to more easily integrate without immediate suspicion.

  • Domestically, the KGB was feared as the country’s secret police. They would seek out those suspected

  • of being anti-communist, or anti-government, and frequently search their homes, and arrest

  • dissidents. They established individual departments for controlling religious activity, subversive

  • nationalism, foreign influence, unauthorized media, and specifically the Jewish population.

  • The KGB even worked against heads of state who threatened the stability of Soviet ideology.

  • In 1964, former and acting KGB officers staged what has been considered a nonviolent coup

  • d’état of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, replacing him with Leonid Brezhnev. However,

  • the next attempted coup by the KGB was not as successful. In 1991, as Russian president

  • Mikhail Gorbachev began implementing reforms, he was arrested by the KGB, who feared a loss

  • of power. Although the coup failed after two days, it has been pointed to as a major contributor

  • to the rapid destabilization of the Soviet Union and its collapse that same year.

  • The KGB was a long feared organization, and a huge source of tension for the United States

  • during the Cold War. Although it was dissolved alongside the Soviet Union, the current Russian

  • President Vladimir Putin was himself a KGB officer from 1975 to 1991. Which may be why,

  • many question whether the influence and methods of the KGB are truly gone from Russian government

  • is a contentious issue in the political sphere.

  • The death of Alexander Litvinenko was certainly suspicious. To see a timeline of his alleged

  • poisoning, check out our video at the top. For a more in depth look at Russia’s problems

  • with corruption, see the video down below. Thanks for watching Test Tube News, don’t

  • forget to like and subscribe for new videos, every day!

A recent British inquiry into the suspicious death of former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko,

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